Artificial insemination (AI) is the deliberate introduction of sperm into a female’s cervix or uterine cavity for the purpose of achieving a pregnancy through in vivo fertilization by means other than sexual intercourse or in vitro fertilisation. It is a fertility treatment for humans, and is common practice in animal breeding, including dairy cattle (see Frozen bovine semen) and pigs.
Artificial insemination may employ assisted reproductive technology, sperm donation and animal husbandry techniques. Artificial insemination techniques available include intracervical insemination (ICI) and intrauterine insemination (IUI). The beneficiaries of artificial insemination are women who desire to give birth to their own child who may be single, women who are in a lesbian relationship or women who are in a heterosexual relationship but with a male partner who is infertile or who has a physical impairment which prevents full intercourse from taking place. Intracervical insemination is the easiest and most common insemination technique and can be used in the home for self-insemination without medical practitioner assistance. Compared with natural insemination (i.e., insemination by sexual intercourse), artificial insemination can be more expensive and more invasive, and may require professional assistance.
Some countries have laws which restrict and regulate who can donate sperm and who is able to receive artificial insemination, and the consequences of such insemination. Some women who live in a jurisdiction which does not permit artificial insemination in the circumstance in which she finds herself may travel to another jurisdiction which permits it.
The first recorded case of artificial insemination was John Hunter in 1790, who helped impregnate a linen draper’s wife.The first reported case of artificial insemination by donor occurred in 1884: Dr. William H. Pancoast, a professor in Philadelphia, took sperm from his “best looking” student to inseminate an anesthetized woman without her knowledge. The case was reported 25 years later in a medical journal. The sperm bank was developed in Iowa starting in the 1950s in research conducted by University of Iowa medical school researchers Jerome Sherman and Raymond Bunge.
In the United Kingdom, the British obstetrician Mary Barton founded one of the first fertility clinics to offer donor insemination in the 1930s, with her husband Bertold Wiesner fathering hundreds of offspring.
In the 1980s, direct intraperitoneal insemination (DIPI) was occasionally used, where doctors injected sperm into the lower abdomen through a surgical hole or incision, with the intention of letting them find the oocyte at the ovary or after entering the genital tract through the ostium of the fallopian tube.